|Herbert and Ramona want to form a team named “United People of Adventure”. Each one of the six team members comes from another continent, speaks a different language, has a varied cultural background along with a unique set of skills and talents and, of course, a different view and approach of the world. Man or woman alike! We are different, yet the same … for we all share the same spirit of adventure, the same love and passion for adventure riding and traveling. “Together we are strong!”
Up for grabs are 10 days of exploring the remote northeastern corner of Madagascar with Herbert and Ramona on a fully Touratech equipped motorcycle!Do you think that you have what it takes to be part of this incredible experience?
Madagascar is unique. The fourth largest island in the world combines so many superlatives that it is also known as the „sixth continent“. For millions of years, this fragment of the continent Gondwana has floated in the Indian Ocean „at the bottom right, next to Africa“. In its total isolation, it has developed an entirely unique flora and fauna. 90% of its flora (some 12,000 plants) and 60% of its fauna are endemic. This means they are found only here, and nowhere else on the planet. The tropical paradise is home to primeval-looking chameleons, lemurs and the largest butterfly in the world. With 24.2 million people from 18 tribes, Madagascar is a melting pot of cultures and influences from Polynesia, Africa, Arabia and Europe. Exceptional landscapes, strange creatures, the pride and vitality of its extremely poor population attract adventure-seeking motorcycle travellers to this foreign, exotic island world.
Including Herbert and Ramona Schwarz. With „Cap Est“ – on what is known as the „Vanilla coast“ in the north east – as their destination, the first time they first travelled around Madagascar on their bikes was in 2012. Bourbon vanilla, the island’s no. 1 export, flourishes in the hot and humid climate of one of the island’s remotest and most inaccessible regions. The fact that all the roads simply come to a halt just past Antalaha presented the two – who had little time left before their return to Germany – with an insurmountable logistical problem. With heavy hearts, they had to change their plans and move onto a small boat. They could only guess at „Madagascar’s most eastern point“ from a distance, as they headed south on „Jenna 3“, being tossed about on the stormy water.
Ramona’s report of this adventure ended with the words: „One answer to the question why we travel could be, ‚So we carry a place in our hearts that we will return to one day‘.“ And now this is going to happen sooner than they thought! Madagascar as the destination for „United People of Adventure“? This was something that Herbert, for whom Africa has always held a special fascination, and Ramona, who still has an old score to settle with the Cap Est, quickly agreed on.
|A 100-km wide strip of dense, evergreen rainforest stretches the entire length of the east coast. With sad regularity, tropical cyclones leave a path of destruction. Up to 5000 mm of rain can fall here during the annual rainy season. The red earth turns to mud that makes it impossible to travel the few tracks that there are. Between December and March, many places on the overland route are cut off from the rest of the island, and can only be reached by boat – if at all!|
As soon as the ground is (hopefully) dry again in April 2016, Herbert and Ramona will set off from Antalaha with the six participants from all over the world. From there, they will follow a part of the 5000-km coastline. 1000 km in 10 days. The two hosts know as much (or perhaps that should be as little) about the exact route and conditions along the way as the rest of the team, having made the decision in advance not to scout. This isn't a guided tour that you can book through the Internet – it's a genuine, awfully big adventure! And will include good (and possibly a few not-so-good) surprises. From the riding point of view, they have to expect mud, deep sand, corrugated iron, gravel and lots of water. Quite an endurance test for their Touratech equipment! The riders and their bikes will all be stretched to their limits.
The first issue of „United People of Adventure“ promises an exciting motorbike expedition into the unknown. Its success stands and falls by good teamwork. Everyone is equal. Everyone has to join in. Everyone will have tasks to perform. Everyone adds good ideas. Everyone is allowed to be weak! A talent for improvisation and spontaneity will be as much in demand as the ability to keep calm in difficult situations. At 30° Celsius and more, and allowing for swarms of mosquitoes, this could well be quite a challenge 😉
What is the best way to prepare mentally for such an undertaking? Easy! By taking to heart the philosophies of the project „Have no expectations, and rely on your gut feeling“, letting go of old patterns of thought, and adopting the motto of the Madagascans: „Mora mora – take life slowly!“
Life on this trip will follow a set pattern determined by the course of the sun. It will rise at 5.30 hrs, and set again at 17.30 hrs. Which means there will only be 12 hours of daylight! Short days demand good planning and sharing tasks. Each day, someone will be tasked with finding somewhere to camp, while another person has to make sure there is something good to eat on the (imaginary) table, while a third person goes off to find wood for the evening’s camp fire.
The corner points of the route are: Antalaha – Cap Est – Cap Masoala (lagoon in the middle of crystal clear water) – Maroantsetra – Mananara – Soanierana Ivongo – Toamasina – Antananarivo.
Suffice it to say that the tracks that start out quite wide will get narrower, eventually becoming zebu or hiking trails. The dense mangrove forests that cover the peninsula are covered by countless tributaries. With a little luck, there will be a simple wooden bridge across them. If not, then depending on the water level, the bikers will either have to ride their bikes across them, join forces to push them, or construct a raft. It’s probably a good idea to have a few lashing straps and a machete in the bags!
The travellers will struggle on valiantly until they are no longer to progress with their big bikes. Plan B will come into force by Cap Masoala at the latest! This includes a (hopefully) successful search for a boat that will safely transport everybody and everything to the other side of the bay and Maroantsetra. From there, a nasty corrugated iron track with deep sand leads back to civilisation.
It takes time to travel. As does talking to the people. Which is why a little leeway has been included in the plans for the individual daily stages, just in case of the unforeseen. And if it is actually true that the toughest routes lead to the loveliest places, then the protagonists of UPoA certainly do have some treats in store!
Herbert and Ramona want to be self-sufficient, travelling with tents and sleeping bags. They actively seek the interaction with the land and its people. Their worst nightmare would be to travel „like in a bubble“ … in a quasi-military formation, accompanied by strangers armed to the teeth with high-tech equipment, being rushed through the loveliest landscapes and missing all the loveliness along the wayside. UPoA is to be seen as a project that leaves tracks. Herbert and Ramona want to help people who have not been fortunate enough to be born into a privileged life. At the beginning of the trip, they want to visit orphans in Antalaha and see what kind of help is most urgently needed.
The UPoA project will be supported by a professional film and photo crew, everyone travelling on motorbikes. There will be photos, film footage and a 45-minute documentary report, all to be premièred at the Travel Event in Niedereschach, from 10 until 12 June 2016. All the revenue from the DVD will be donated to the orphanage.
Text: Ramona Schwarz